2022 NBA Finals: Three reasons Celtics can beat Warriors, including Boston chasing Stephen Curry

With the Boston Celtics winning Game 7 over the Miami Heat on Sunday, the 2022 NBA Finals game is set. The Celtics, seeded No. 2 in the East, face the Golden State Warriors, seeded No. 3 in the West.

Game 1 is scheduled for Thursday in San Francisco. The Warriors are favorites (-155 to +135 in Boston, according to Caesars Sportsbook), but I take the Celtics in seven. I think they’re a great match for Golden State. Here are three areas where the Celtics can work to their advantage to win the 2022 NBA championship.

1. Celtics switch vs. Warriors move

Not only is this Celtics defense arguably one of the best in modern history, but it’s perfectly suited to grapple with all of Golden State’s off-ball moves. Boston changes everything, making life difficult for Klay Thompson, Stephen Curry and Jordan Poole as they seek to shake off screens and misdirection. This was reflected in the numbers.

The Warriors aren’t a big game-hunting team, which is good, because there really isn’t a weak link to hunt on Boston’s defense (maybe you could discuss Grant Williams in space ). It will be difficult for the Warriors to create consistent quality looks on the half court. Marcus Smart, Jayson Tatum, Derrick White, Jaylen Brown, all of those guys can reasonably upset Curry in one-on-one situations, and Al Horford defends well on the perimeter, so it doesn’t matter which game Curry or Poole end up with in late situations.

Golden State will want to operate early in the shot clock, but with the way Boston is recovering at shooters, a lot of possessions could drag on longer than the Warriors would like — how bad, Boston advantage.

And that’s to say nothing of Golden State’s propensity to turn the buck. Boston is going to put a lot of pressure on the ball. They will chase and double and retrieve and trade. They will grab and hold like Miami grabbed and held them. Will the Warriors be able to find enough space during the series to really get their shots going? In spurts, of course. But in the long run, I think Boston’s defense poses a lot of problems for Golden State.

2. Open season on Steph

While the Celtics don’t offer a weak defensive link for the Warriors to target (according to Payton Pritchard’s time in this series), Boston will go straight for Curry, and likely Poole as well.

Boston spent quite a bit of time researching favorite matchups against Miami, and the team found success. Golden State handled the situation well when Luka Doncic frequently targeted Curry in the final round with pick and rolls; they didn’t want to tip Curry on Doncic just like they won’t want to let him defend Tatum or Brown in the final so they had Curry show/hedge on Doncic just long enough to stop his momentum so the original defender could recover then that Curry was returning to his mission.

There is a vulnerability in these fractional seconds of recovery. All those covers and wing braces digging into the traffic lanes will open up secondary shooters and playmakers for Boston, which is simply better equipped to punish Golden State in this regard than Dallas was. Jalen Brunson is not Brown, even taking into account Brown’s inability to dribble consistently at times. Smart, White, all these guys are going to make plays on the dribble if they consistently catch with leverage in their favor. Boston gets into the paint with great success when determined to do so.

If Tatum, who was awesome creating shots for his teammates in Game 7, and Brown are able to use the attention they get to set up teammates for a clean look, the Warriors, who don’t like not double the team, are going to have a dilemma on their hands asking Curry and/or Poole to defend, while Boston has far fewer defensive pressure points (I’d say they don’t) for Golden State can continue.

3. Size matters

The Warriors have, statistically, been a better rebounding team than the Celtics in the playoffs, but look at the matchups. Golden State played a small Dallas team and a Memphis team that was without Steven Adams for half the series (when Adams played he hurt them on the glass during his minutes with 12 offensive rebounds on 4 games and 5). Boston had to deal with the Bucks and Heat, who are collapsing much harder than their small lineups would suggest.

In this game, the Celtics – with Horford and depending on the health of Robert Williams – can play bigger than Golden State, who got a great play from Kevon Looney (who completely turned the script on Adams in the deciding Game 6 with 22 boards including 11 offense against just one for Adams) but will obviously go small with Draymond Green at five quite often.

No one on the Celtics chases offensive rebounds like Adams, but still, if Looney has to play big minutes to keep Boston under control on the glass, that dulls Golden State’s offensive firepower, and really, how many minutes Looney can he save fighting Horford and both Williams over a seven-game series? Additionally, Horford will stretch Looney wide out of the paint in single lineups.

Draymond Green is going to fight, obviously, and Andrew Wiggins is a strong positional rebounder (as is Curry), and the Warriors are more than capable of defending or even winning the rebound battle in this game (offensive rebounding isn’t has never been harder to predict with all the long rebounds on 3-point shots).

But Boston, on paper, has a chance to assert some physical dominance on the boards (while understanding that it will try to balance the return in transition to locate Golden State’s shooters). And if so, the creation of consistent second-chance opportunities, combined with the size of the two-way perimeter Boston boasts about, add up on a streak in a big way.

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